Report - - The North Eastern Storm Relief Sewer (Deep Ochre), London, 2011 – 2018 | UK Draining Forum | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The North Eastern Storm Relief Sewer (Deep Ochre), London, 2011 – 2018


Loyal to the Drain
Regular User

If you will pardon the pun then it is with great relief to have finally traversed the full length of this drain after first climbing down the ladders seven years ago.
During this protracted period, I have probably paid around ten visits to the drain and on my first trip, was accompanied by my brother who doesn’t normally do this kind of thing but was persuaded to give it a go. Strangely enough, he has not been in a drain since! I can only think that walking down a smelly slippery pipe from Shoreditch to Highbury then climbing a 100 foot ladder back up to street level wasn’t his cup of tea. However following that memorable visit, I have returned on separate occasions with ConcreteJungle, Ojay and tallginge (in that order).
Taking seven years to see this drain from beginning to end is a slightly odd and philosophical experience. During this time I lost my job, a grandmother and an uncle yet gained a beautiful daughter who is already in her second year at school. As a result, the various sections of this drain casually remind me of these milestones in life.
Anyhow, enough of my waffling, below are the photos in order of upstream to downstream:

Deep Ochre begins at the bottom of a dropshaft at an overflow chamber on the Northern High Level Sewer in North Highbury. As you can see, a couple of smaller egg shaped local sewers add their feculence to the filthy torrent.
Accessing this chamber is not as simple as just dropping in from the street above and instead entails climbing a heavily wet wipe, jamrag and bog roll encrusted ladder before clambering on hands and knees over more of said filth hanging from a grille to then squeeze into the CSO chamber.






From here it is a 1km stoop south along this 5ft diameter blue and yellow brick tunnel.

A north of orly.jpg

Eventually the stooping is over and Deep Ochre intersects the 7ft diameter Holloway Storm Relief at what is known as the Orly Junction.

We could now finally stand up straight and let our poor backs recover while admiring what is one of my favourite parts of the London Main Drainage system.
Orly really is an orgy of red, yellow and blue brick, curves, slopes and steps. Victorian Civil Engineering at its finest.
There really shouldn’t be any flow except during periods of rainfall or excessive discharge of wastewater to the sewer but for the last few years there has been a constant and often significant quantity of overflow entering this junction from the Holloway Storm Relief Sewer to the west which in turn has received this from Northern High Level Sewer further upstream.

AB deepochre1.jpg

B looking south from end of 5ft.jpg

C Holloway looking east.jpg

C Holloway looking south.jpg

C Holloway looking west.jpg

D Holloway looking east and south.jpg

D looking back up.jpg


E Orly.jpg

F (2).jpg


From the Orly junction downstream (approx. 4.5km), the tunnel is 8ft in diameter and features little in the way of any interesting features(not photographed) except for an immensely slippery fibreglass section under what I suspect is a railway line and also a dropshaft to allow overflow from the Middle Level Sewer #2.

In Bethnal Green, The tunnel expands in diameter to a huge 12ft at the point where the Middle Level Sewer #1 passes above. Here there is a large overflow chamber with a nice staircase for the flow to cascade under storm conditions.​






A hundred metres or so further downstream, a 4ft tunnel with crystal clear water running from it (not photographed) joins from the east which according to the map, eventually leads back up to the Holloway Storm Relief west of Dalston. Unfortunately, this section of Deep Ochre is one of the sections which is presently spoilt by a series of dams which were put in as part of the ongoing Crossrail project that causes the water level to back up and fester in a foul putrid manner.

The next six pics were taken by Tallginge, the first shows me trying not to breach my waders in the filthy stagnant water behind one of the dams.


The Crossrail Act 2008, Work No. 1/26C states that “A diversion of the North Eastern Storm Relief Sewer, commencing by a junction with that sewer beneath a point 112 metres west of the junction of Durward Street with Brady Street and terminating by a junction with that sewer beneath a point 100 metres south-west of the junction of Durward Street with Brady Street. Work No. 1/26C includes a shaft for construction and maintenance”.

A little further south below Whitechapel Station, the evidence of this work can be seen, although I would not describe the sewer to have been diverted. Instead following the final dam which is fitted with a connection for a pipe to be attached so that the ‘water’ can be pumped above ground while the work was in progress, the tunnel has been concrete lined and has had a large shaft built above it with lots of cables leading to sensors of some kind attached to the walls.
There were also a number of ‘cats eyes’ type devices that presumably were there to check for disturbance to the drain whilst the Crossrail tunnel was being bored.







Loyal to the Drain
Regular User

Below Whitechapel road to both west and east directly adjacent to each other were these two side pipes. These led to overflows from local sewers and a connection to the Ratcliff Highway and Ratcliff Storm Relief sewers.



A few hundred metres further south in Shadwell, a dam blocks the lower portion of the tunnel and directs low to medium flows down a side shaft into the Low Level Sewer #2.






From beyond this dam, it is about 0.8km until with a couple of twists, the North Eastern Storm Relief Sewer ends abruptly at a set of four huge heavy cast iron flaps where it outfalls to the Thames below King Edward VII Memorial Park.
After briefly propping open one of the flaps it was possible to see a bit of the ongoing Thames Tideway work that will intercept the tens of millions of tons of filth that this sewer and 33 other sewers dump into the Thames every year.

At the beginning of the report, I referred to things in my life which had happened during the seven years it has taken to finally see the full length of the drain and its features.
While exploring them, it is easy to think of these old Victorian sewers as timeless and unchanged as the years pass by whilst life in the modern world above marches on. However, this place has not escaped change since my first visit as the series of dams were not in place, the Crossrail shaft and works had not begun and a view across the Thames would have been visible from the final cast iron flaps had the current work on the much needed Thames Tideway project not been underway.





Thanks to Tallginge for accompanying me on the last few trips and to ConcreteJungle and Ojay for the earlier ones :)



Staff member
Superb mate and about time :p

That mid section where the weir boards are is ridiculous, I’ve got a couple of bits still to see myself here, but struggle to find the motivation to get back to this one :thumb


Regular User
Awesome work! Great report and photos.

Accessing this chamber is not as simple as just dropping in from the street above and instead entails climbing a heavily wet wipe, jamrag and bog roll encrusted ladder before clambering on hands and knees over more of said filth hanging from a grille to then squeeze into the CSO chamber.
Access sounds brilliant! ;-)


more tall than ginger tho.....
Regular User
Great report and pics mate, enjoyed that! Think yer third pic sums up that end well, jeez there was a lot of rags on that ladder. Had forgot how much stoopin there was to get to it tho and back down to orly! Glad we didn't have to walk back up it again and past that rats nest with all the newborn ratings in it!


Loyal to the Drain
Regular User
Thanks for the positive comments everyone! :D

@tallginge - I'd forgotten about that rats nest. Those newborn rats were horrid but kinda cute in a weird way. Their tampon and fanny plaster nest was well built though.


more tall than ginger tho.....
Regular User
Yeah pink, wriggly and gross and only a few days old. Enjoyed that 32m long ladder outta orly. Bin a while since I've climbed anything that long!

Vacant Stare

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Stunning set of pictures, it actually looks like one of those sci-fi pictures when the microscopic craft goes into the bowels of a human.. Top work Mr Vicar!

von hofmannstahl

28DL Member
28DL Member
Great job, what I'd call a real project. Thanks for sharing the pics and the story, it gave me considerable vicarious enjoyment from my armchair. Maybe I need to get out more.